By Connie Woytowich and Jane Weihe
For The Daily Gazette
That was our message to voters in the fall of 2020 as we urged the defeat of the latest attempt to change Saratoga Springs’ commission form of government to a city manager form with a ward system.
Voters agreed and defeated the charter change proposal by over 1,000 votes.
As we approach a new year and a new administration in City Hall, we thought it a good time to reflect on how well the commission form of government in Saratoga Springs has been working since that decisive vote.
First, let’s remember all the claims made by those who wanted to replace Saratoga’s commission form of government.
Some of the dire predictions made if we kept the commission form of government included: very few people will run for office; women won’t run for office, especially the commissioner of Public Safety and Public Works, since these are seen as “men’s jobs”.
Fast forward to the most recent city election this past November.
A record number of individuals stepped forward to run for the five City Council seats with a total of 17 names on the ballot.
A total of seven women ran for city offices, including running for Public Works commissioner and Public Safety commissioner.
Those wanting charter change also claimed that the commission form of government was inefficient.
Nothing could be accomplished, they asserted, because power was distributed amongst the five council members.
They would not be able to get along. The “five-headed monster” would produce gridlock and the city would suffer.
Let’s look at the actual accomplishments produced by the five leaders of our commission form in the last two years:
• Secured land from NYRA for the city’s third Fire Station and put the project on track to be completed in 2022;
• Finished the Geyser Road Trail for the safe enjoyment of cyclists and walkers;
• Passed the Unified Development Ordinance to streamline the city’s building and zoning process;
• Resolved legal issues to complete the City Center Parking Structure, which has not only brought needed parking spaces to downtown, but has now made new EV charging stations available to the public;
• Had city government fully functioning in the Rec Center less than a week after fire damaged City Hall;
• Completed the renovation of City Hall, combining historic preservation with an update of city facilities, making the building ADA compliant and energy efficient.
As we look ahead now to a new year and a new administration, we note with concern that three of the four new Council members were active participants in the soundly defeated effort to change our charter.
Our hope is that as the new council members take office, they will listen to the voters and continue to make Saratoga Work.
Connie Woytowich and Jane Weihe are co-chairs of Saratoga Works, a civic group of individuals from multiple political parties and diverse backgrounds who care about our city and its future.